Social Search Overview Thursday April 12. 2007 9am Social Search Track
Moderator: Chris Sherman, SearchEngineWatch Speakers: Grant Ryan, Eurekster - Did not show Tomi Poutanen, Yahoo! Social Search
Apostolos Gerasoulis. - added speaker Seth Godin - added speaker
Rough night with little sleep but made it to this session on time. Early even. About 5 people here at first, with most of them security people. Lisa Barone is blogging nearby. She's extremely dedicated to reporting sessions for Bruce Clay's company. It's gray and rainy. Chris Sherman is here now, setting up for the session. They must have expected a lot of people for this topic because we got part of a ballroom for it, but the session starts in five minutes and the room is only slightly 1/4 full. Looks like they added a third speaker. Apostolos Gerasoulis. (Thank you to the kind gentleman who helped me read the name sign on the table. Even at the front row, I have a hard time seeing due to my poor eyesight.) It's after 9am...looks like Chris is getting the panel ready.
Chris introduces himself. Talks about the opt to win a Mini Cooper during the break after this session, sponsored by AOL. What is social search? There’s no good definition. He defines it as Internet way finding tools informed by human judgment. Informed can mean many things including egregiously uninformed. No good industry standard definition. You can have people influencing social search who really don't know what they talking about. We’ve always had social search. Yahoo was originally created by a team of human editors. Meta tags created in 1996 to help content owners influence search engines and were a massive failure. They were the first "true" social search. They're returning to their roots. They were effective for about 6 weeks or so, until spammers got a hold of them. We now have tagging which are meta tags in a different incarnation.
Algorithm search itself is social. Fundamentally search engines reflect human bias (programmer choices). They observe human behavior, click paths, popular urls and use this to modify algos. New personalization efforts are also used to refine search for everyone. Yahoo stores 12-14 terabytes of data per day. We have privacy concerns. Personalization will be a huge threat to optimizers. Every search will bring different results. Why is SS so popular now? Algos have plateau. Innovation is much harder then it used to be. Humans are still better at some things than computers. Most players in social search are leveraging the work of "millions" of free volunteers. Image search. Flicker. SE's see a pixel not what we see. Images are found based on surrounding text and tags. We can see it but SE's don't see images the way we do.
Types of social search:del.icio.us, shadows, myweb, furl diigo are for bookmarking, tagging. Tag engines are blogs and RSS, like Technorati, bloglines. Collaborative directories like Wiki, ODP, Prefound, Zimbio. Personalized verticals like Google custom search, eurekster, rollyo, trexy. Collaborative harvesters like digg, netscape, reddit, popurls.com aggregates these. Harvesters focus on news. You can vote up or down. Up, stories rise to the top. They tend to be dominated by "power". If they don't like what you write about, they can blacklist you. Social Q & A sites are Google answers (gone now), yahoo answers answerbag. People have questions and other people offer answers. How do you do quality control? Over time, Yahoo really got good at this. They ask, did this person’s answer match our algo on this? Yahoo is experimenting.
Scale and scope issues. There are Tagging issues due to language, lack of controlled vocab, human laziness and "idiots, spammers trying to game the system. What will work? combo of algo and people mediated search. trust networks. increased personalization and user control over result filtering. SS will work best for non-text content (photos, music, video, etc.) You decide what sources you want for your information. SE's can't understand video. How would an SE understand humor? We'll still need people describing media.
Seth Godin is presented next.
"Search is broken." If I go to Google, and type in espresso machine, I find 8 million matches. Impossible a few years ago. Today, humans built content. You all responded. Martha Stewart has a huge site. Someone types in "martha cookies":. The third match is Squidoo. What it shows recipes, images, books, tons of content. A human being compiled the info and built the page. The only purpose of the page is to get you to leave. He saw the need for human beings to build a post search solution. A search for laptop bags. You may have 50,000 pages. Too much competition for first page in SERPs. The first result is a human written page by squidoo on laptop bags and comes up first. She changes the content frequently. She’s doing Yahoo's job. If you like what she does, and follow her other links to other sites built by other people. Accidentally clicks on an image with men standing in underwear and everyone laughs. He's posted more than 2000 times in his blog. He doesn't want you to first meet him there. If you go to the page he built in squidoo, it's more about him, by him with links and books and essays and other stuff that helps you get to know him. The wrong thing to do is try and send in traffic you haven't earned. Have your biggest fans build those pages. If you can get 100 or 1000 of them to build out content because they care about you ,they like you, each giving a thoughtful explanation about what they like. SE's want you to do this. Its important data being put in front of SE's and hence, you.
AP - From ASK.com
Strongly feels ss is the future of search. Direct Hit was first social search. Was bought by Ask.com. (He corrects Chris.) Algo search has plateau. How can you rank in the future with the new technology? SS is a knowledge that is used to guide you into a region of what you want. You want to find the exact info, text will take to the info but not take you to the region where it is located. "Rangers" will mean different things to different people, countries, states, etc. You can guide and give what the users want. Kids looking for college search by college name. They create a path. Creating a path to ivy league schools. Wouldn’t it be nice if I understood who you are when you do a search like this? Teoma is taking the web and splitting it into communities (still working in the background of Ask.) It wants to find the right community for you. Some of this has been a closely held secret until now, due to competition. He came from Madison, NJ and sees traffic. He used his social knowledge and traffic starts early, Lincoln tunnel will be blocked. He makes a quick decision to take the train, so he could make it here. Next generation of search will integrate social search and communities. This is an important future area that we need to support. We must look for innovative solutions to deliver what the user wants.
Tony P - Yahoo Social Search
Thanks for showing up day 4 of conference. Starts with a quote by Peter Drucker, The Educated Person, about the contrast of knowledge and information. Knowledge is embodied in a person. The shift to a knowledge society puts the person in the center. (Paraphrasing here). Yahoo believes in human to human communication. 3 services: Flicker images. Runs a search on golden retrievers. (I started looking for my dog! Got sidetracked). He's showing a power point pres. of dog pics. Flicker geo codes, for maps, can be used to find your morning coffee. Another search is del.icio.us. Social bookmarking product. You can share pages of interest with your network. He searched for the Hilton in SE's, get paid and bland responses. In de.licio.us, you get humanly described content about the Hilton search. Different ways of rank. Yahoo answers. Enables you to ask a question and the community as a whole answers the question. No economic incentives. People helping people. You can ask for suggestions for products or services and get people-driven responses. Chris questions the expertise of information (sources of people), the wisdom of crowds is being built in. Bono asked about world poverty for example. Yahoo is including results from Yahoo answers in its overall SERPs. They are committed to social search. Have been investing in it for the past 2 years or more.
From the Q&A session. The discussion was interesting, so I stayed to listen.
Books are not always the authoritative source. Misconception there, that print is better than the Internet for best. So far everything is free. Google Answers was paid and died. Yahoo is free and thrives. A person from the audience wanted to know how long this free, "hippie phase" of free stuff would last. There are problems with being paid and Yahoo debates this all the time. They like the idea of rewarding top contributors but changes incentive for contributing. Seth says money changes everything. Bloggers work for free. If there's money on the table, you know who the people are. You can fool around for free. Not if you are being paid. Money destroyed the quality of the search engines, Apostolos says. Seth says Dell made a mistake by ignoring blogs. Tony says everyone has to make a choice. If a company wants to serve its customers it can't ignore Web 2.0. Big companies want to get involved but are "shy" because of published "dangers" and bad press on some social sites. There's a "ton" of pent up demand for social driven content.